Apply to the physics graduate program
Graduate applications proceed through the Graduate Division of UC Merced. Information on application requirements can be found on the Graduate Admissions website and specifically for physics below. See also more general information at http://physics.ucmerced.edu/academics/graduate-studies.
Admissions requirements and elements
- Deadlines and timeline:
- PRIORITY DEADLINE: December 15, 2020 (applications will receive priority review)
- GENERAL DEADLINE: January 15, 2021 (applications reviewed after the priority deadline)
- Any late applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis if space is available. Please email the admissions chair if you apply after Jan. 15.
- Admissions decisions will be sent out on a rolling basis starting in January.
- Accepted students' decision whether to enroll is due April 15.
- Application fee (or waiver form) must be submitted by the application deadline as well.
- Applications are for beginning in the fall semester. Applications for the spring semester are considered only under special circumstances.
- Previous degree: An undergraduate or masters degree in physics or a closely related field is required. We expect strong preparation in mathematics along with coursework in classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and quantum mechanics. Students who did not complete a degree in physics should compare their preparation with our expected undergraduate coursework as tested in the preliminary exams to be sure they are adequately prepared for our physics PhD program. A masters degree is not required, and most of our entering grad students do not have a masters degree. Having a masters degree can increase likelihood of acceptance, especially for applicants from foreign universities, applicants who did not do any undergraduate research, or applicants who have a low undergraduate GPA.
- Grade-point average (GPA): Must be at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Slightly below 3.0 for an undergraduate GPA is acceptable if a GPA above 3.0 is obtained in a masters program. For international transcripts, GPA will be converted by our staff to the 4.0 scale for these purposes, using an online service such as WES.
- Transcripts: Please provide from all post-secondary institutions you have attended, including community colleges, summer courses, study abroad courses, bachelors programs, and masters programs. Unofficial transcripts are sufficient at the time of application; official transcripts will be needed if you receive an admissions offer. It is essential to submit at least an unofficial copy at the time of application, for your application to be reviewed.
- Application fees: As listed on this page, fees are $120 for domestic applicants and $140 for international applicants. Your application will not be counted as submitted until the fee is satisfied. Application fee waivers are available automatically to participants in programs such as Cal-Bridge, UC LEADS, California Alliance for Minority Participation, LSAMP, AISES, and SACNAS (see full list). A limited number of waivers are also available to other qualified applicants with financial hardship (including international students) -- please contact the admissions chair as soon as possible to request, providing CV, TOEFL/IELTS if applicable, GPA, and brief statement of research interests.
- Graduate Record Exams (GREs) -- not required: The general GRE and physics GRE are not required currently. Applicants may optionally submit these scores if they have them and think they will strengthen the application, but we expect to receive and accept many applications without the test scores. Unofficial score reports may be included in the application.
- Reference letters: Submit letters from your professors, especially the supervisor(s) of any research experiences, or others who can speak to your ability and potential. Please request letters from your recommenders as soon as practical, to be sure they can arrive in time for review of your application. Check periodically on the website that they have arrived, and if not, please remind your recommenders to submit the letters. If you have done a masters degree, at least one reference should come from a faculty member at your masters institution.
- Curriculum vitae (CV): Please provide a CV, summarizing your education and experience. Be sure to list any research or teaching experiences you have had, with dates, topics, and mentors. List any publications, conference posters, or presentations about your research, and any conferences or workshops you have attended. Note extracurricular activities related to physics and any special training programs you have taken part in.
- English proficiency exams: TOEFL/IELTS exam scores are required for students who have been educated in a language other than English. They are not required for holders of an advanced degree from an English-speaking country, although upon arrival on campus they will have to demonstrate English competence with the English Language Institute for any appointment as a teaching assistant. Full information is available here. Those slightly below the speaking threshold can still apply and may be admitted if they can pass a Skype interview to verify spoken English proficiency.
- Statement of purpose: Your statement of purpose should be approximately two pages in length, and discuss why you wish to enter our PhD program, what your research interests are, who of our faculty you are interested in working with, any previous research experience, and what your career plans for the future are. Demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to doing research and ability to discuss science. Prospective graduate students are encouraged to contact individual faculty members to discuss their research interests and see whether they are taking new students; however, admission is not to a specific research group but to the PhD program as a whole, and specific arrangement of a PhD advisor is typically made at some point during the first year of the PhD program.
- Personal statement: Describe topics such as how you got interested in physics, obstacles you overcame, extracurricular activities or work experience related to science, goals for the future, your personal journey, explanation or context for any problematic/unusual aspects of your CV/transcript.
- Writing / research samples: It is optional, but encouraged, to submit other materials that demonstrate your skills in research and writing, such as published papers, bachelors or masters thesis, research posters, research abstracts, etc.
- Degree choice: We rarely admit students for the MS degree. Like US PhD programs in general, we do not necessarily expect incoming PhD students to have done a masters degree already, and we do not think of our MS degree as a starting point for PhD studies, or a program that is easier to be accepted for. If you want to do a PhD program, you should apply for the PhD program. All our PhD students are guaranteed funding for 5 years, but MS students do not receive a similar guarantee.
- Applying for a second time: In this case, be sure to update your materials, noting anything new since your previous application (e.g. any further studies, credentials, research, or work experience).